update deskSchools & Higher Education

Title VI investigations launched into UC Davis, Berkeley public schools, Northwestern law school

It’s the third Title VI investigation involving religion at UC Davis since December.

The Segundo dormitories at the University of California, Davis. Credit: Veritas117 via Wikimedia Commons.
The Segundo dormitories at the University of California, Davis. Credit: Veritas117 via Wikimedia Commons.

Schools in California and Chicago will face federal scrutiny for potentially failing to address bigotry at their institutions.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on June 21 that investigations had opened on June 17 into potential violations of Title VI in the 1964 Civil Rights Act by the University of California-Davis, Berkeley Unified School District and Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago.

JNS contacted all three for copies of the letters received from the OCR. UC Davis responded that it had submitted a public records request to provide the communication; the documentation did not arrive by press time. Berkeley Unified Schools and the Northwestern University School of Law did not respond to the request for information.

The OCR usually does not provide details about complaints. OCR records indicated that the investigations into Northwestern University School of Law, UC Davis and Berkeley Unified Schools all feature alleged National Origin Discrimination Involving Religion.

The investigation into Berkeley schools originated in a complaint filed by the San Francisco-Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA), whose national executive director, Nihad Awad, said that the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in southern Israel made him “happy.”

CAIR accuses the district of failing to properly respond to anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry.

Zahra Billoo, a lawyer and the executive director for the CAIR San Francisco Bay Area chapter whose antisemitic rhetoric has been reported for years, praised the OCR “for taking this critical step.” She said, “It is crucial that all students, regardless of their background, feel safe and supported in their educational environment.”

Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel said in a statement that the district had “committed to working with OCR in support of a thorough investigation.”

This is the third Title VI investigation involving religion at UC Davis since December. It is the first for Northwestern University School of Law, though one began at Northwestern University on Jan. 23. At Berkeley Unified Schools, an earlier Title VI investigation into potential religious discrimination began on May 7.

A recent Campus Antisemitism Report Card issued by the Anti-Defamation League awarded UC Davis a “D” grade.

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